Plastic Pesticide Container Recycling Program

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White pesticide bottle on truck tailgate.

Johnston County agriculture producers create a surplus of empty plastic pesticide containers and no options for correct disposal. If these containers are disposed of improperly, the agriculture producer could face substantial fines and also cause environmental contamination.

Over the past 14 years, N.C. Cooperative Extension, Johnston County Center has secured funding through NCDA&CS to assist in the plastic pesticide container recycling program, including $12,360 in 2023. These grants are used to purchase roll-off containers, rinse nozzles, and various safety items to support the program. The roll-off containers are placed at recycling sites so agriculture producers can safely dispose of empty plastic pesticide containers. This program was promoted through pesticide recertification classes, letters, radio, emails, and face-to-face. Each year, Cooperative Extension trains participants on what is acceptable for recycling.

Data was collected by USag recycling and distributed by the NCDA&CS to the participating counties. From July 1, 2022, through June 30, 2023, 14,613 pounds of plastic pesticide containers were ground in Johnston County and recycled by USag recycling. According to the Solid Waste Department, landfill space is estimated at a dollar/cubic foot, saving taxpayers in Johnston County over $30,000 in landfill airspace by participating in the pesticide recycling program. Participating in this program adds value to our county by reducing environmental hazards and slowing the landfill’s need to expand.

With that said, I am thankful for the growers who use the program. In this past grinding, we had very few container rejects. This is a picture of a rejected container. We can see the label and the lid, which needs to be removed, and we remove most of  them as we grind. However, the picture below was the main reason for the rejection.

Pesticide residue inside plastic bottle

As you can see, the material was not completely rinsed out of the jug. I understand atrazine is hard to clean, but they cannot take a jug with chemical residues. Please make sure containers are triple rinsed before you recycled them.